Recommendations for Investigators Using Pigs for Research

by Temple Grandin


Pigs are conspicuously sensitive animals who require special attention to guarantee their physical and behavioral well-being in the potentially stress full environment of a research institution.

  • Enrich the environment of pigs to counteract frustration and boredom resulting from chronic understimulation. A barren concrete floor offers no stimulation, and it may cause discomfort and pain resulting from foot and joint irritations and inflammations. Keep the animals on straw bedding or wood chips to promote foraging and rooting behaviors and to stimulate exploratory behavior. If extreme cleanliness is required provide the pigs with suspended tires and hanging rubber hoses to play with and to chew on. Such objects can easily be sanitized. Cloth strips are particularly effective enrichment items (Figure 1). Strips of old bedsheet about 3 in. wide and 24 in. long can be easily tied to the fence and replaced when they get dirty. Environmental enrichment will make the animals calmer and less likely to be startled by sudden noise.

    Suggested Further Reading
    Arnone M and Dantzer P 1980, Does frustration induce aggression in pigs? Applied Animal Ethology 6, 351-362.

    Beattie, VE, Walker N, and Sneddon IA 1995. Effects of environmental enrichment on behaviour and productivity of growing pigs. Animal Welfare 4, 207-220.

    Fraser D 1975. The effect of straw on the behavior of sows in tether stalls. Animal Production 21, 59-68.

    Grandin T 1989. Effect of rearing environment and environmental enrichment on behavior and neural development in young pigs. Doctoral dissertation, University of Illinois, Urbana.

    Grandin T 1986. Minimizing stress in pig handling. Lab Animal 15(3), 15-20.

    Helmsworth PH, Barnett JL and Hansen C 1981. The influence of handling by humans on the behavior, growth, and corticosteroids in the juvenile female pig. Hormones and Behavior 15, 396-403.

    Janssens CJJG, Helmond FA and Wiegant VM 1994. Increased cortisol response to exogenous adrenocorticotrophic hormone in chronically stressed pigs: Influence of housing conditions. Journal of Animal Science 72, 1771-1777.

    Lawrence AB and Rushen J 1993. Stereotypic Animal Behavior: Fundamentals and Applications for Animal Welfare. CAB International: Wallingford

    McFarlane JM, Curtis SE and Widowski TM 1988. Turning and walking by gilts in modified gestation crates. Journal of Animal Science 66: 326-333.

    Stolba and Wood-Gush DGM 1980. Arousal and exploration in growing pigs in different environments. Applied Animal Ethology 6, 382-383.